This is often something that novice cooks are most worried about. “What if the food tastes bland?” “What if I over season?”
Let me tell you that flavour and taste is at the forefront of every chef’s dish; it can make or break a plate, but it need not be a ‘sticking point or something to fear.’
In Thailand, their dishes come down to FOUR elements cleverly balanced to make an amazing dish; sweet, savoury, spice (heat) and sour.
Sweet can come from honey or palm sugar (gives a more richer caramel flavour than cane sugar like granulated); savoury, salt and pepper (often using white, rather than black); spice, most likely chillies and then sour; giving the dish freshness from lime juice. Naturally regional dishes will vary ingredients, but something to consider when flavouring.
In Italian cookery, those deeply rich sauces comprise of just THREE staple elements. Acidic, alkaline and sweet flavours. The base of many of their sauces contain carrots, celery and onion, known in Italy as sofritto. Why? Well, onions are acid, celery is alkaline and carrots are the sweet element. If balanced well, there is no need.
One further tip given to me by an Italian author and chef, Ursula Ferrigno is to effectively triple season your dish. Season at the beginning, taste half way through cooking and season again (it is unlikely any chef will be spot on first time). You may even need to season again, just before serving.
I am not here to cause an online debate, but I say don’t be afraid to use salt. It is NOT a sin! I have hypertension, but I use salt sensibly and within limits, so there is no harm and everyone’s body needs minerals gained from it. By using at the beginning and middle of cooking a dish, it absorbs during cooking, rather than just throwing a handful in at the end for good measure and without the chance for it to absorb into the dish properly.
Every chef will tell you to taste, taste and taste!
Top tip: Maybe you added more salt than the recipe requires by accident. Don’t worry. You can still save your dish by adding more acid in the dish from vinegar or other citrus juices. The acidity will balance out the saltiness of the dish.
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